Legally blind U student updates a touch tour for the visually impaired at the UMFA.

Art Appreciation: Vision Optional

For her entire life, U student Madelyn Stafford was told she didn’t need to participate in art the way other students did. Despite her desire to do so, teachers in Stafford’s life weren’t sure how to approach a student who was legally blind. It wasn’t until she came to the U to study special education that she saw new opportunities.

Stafford was first introduced to the Touch Tour at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) when a class project required her to write about her observations in the museum. She set up an appointment to go on the tour and immediately recognized some improvements could be made.

“It was evident the tour had been created by someone who could see,” Stafford said. “The braille was wrong, and the audio recordings just explained the history of the art, but it didn’t describe the art. I wanted to know what I was standing in front of and what it looked like visually.”

Stafford has teamed up with the UMFA as an intern where, for months, she has been working to make the website, museum, audio for tours and braille accessible for the visually impaired. Stafford has also been teaching Beverly Taylor Sorenson workshops to teachers to help them learn how to accommodate students with visual impairments in their classrooms.

“The reason I want to do this is because I was always so far behind,” Stafford said. “The world is not meant for someone that is blind or visually impaired. I’ve noticed the lack of accommodations, and it’s not okay. My goal is to educate as many people as I can.”

Find this article and a lot more in the 2016 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs.

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